Friday, 19 June 2015

Mid War Panzer IVs - The Road to Sturm Uber Afrika 2015

 Usually my prep for a tournament involves a few months of frantic painting trying to get a new force ready, however this time I opted for something a bit different, just five tanks. The list I'd decided on wasn't really much different from my early war tournament list from earlier in the year, yet more Italian tanks but this time we brought along some Panzer IVs!
I had a couple of boxes of the Plastic Soldier Company Panzer IVs in the Crate-O-Models, so i broke one out and started putting them together. I decided that as the PSC were generous enough to give me all the options for my mid war Panzer IVs, (the kit can be used for F1s through to Hs marks) I'd give magnetising them a go. It was fairly easy, using smaller magnets on the gun barrel and mantlet parts and large magnets inside the turrets. This means that I can choose between F1 (short barreled 7.5cm gun) and F2 (long barreled 7.5cm gun) variants.
I base coated in Vallejo desert yellow using the airbrush in a few light coats. I thought about going for a lighter shade more typical of the Afrika Korps however this darker shade means I can use these tanks for the eastern front just as easily as Africa if I want to and to be honest it doesn't stray far away from any historic colour examples I've seen. I did my normal thing of looking over loads of reference photographs to try to capture the feel of the original units. The answer seemed to be in plenty of baggage, especially jerry cans!

Fuel and water (the Germans marked cans for water with large white crosses) being the most important things in the desert! I ended up plundering the stowage from sets of PCS half tracks to get enough. Oddly enough the PCS have release a stowage set which I really could of used! Oh hum, i'll grab one for my next projects! I pin washed using brown wash for Afrika Korps by MIG productions, another great product that really made the tanks fine detail pop nicely. Finally i sealed the miniatures using the tried and tested Testors spray lacquer. Next stop: Sturm uber Afrika!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Sturm Uber Der Nationen - Early War Tournament

 Well it was enviable really, after having such a blast running my Italian 21 tanks and a biplane list last year we just had to go along to the Sturm uber der Nationen early war tournament, as run by the Reluctant Conscripts gaming group. I decided to stick with my Italian tanks and Alasdair decided to run a list based around Humber II armoured cars. We'd be cruising around the battlefields in style the whole weekend! But first some context, queue flashback sequence! 

Change was in the air though for my Italians, or rather on the ground, (as nothing will stop me taking my biplanes!) with a few additions and subtractions from last years list. Al had bought me a pair of the coastal artillery trucks for Christmas so they were in, as were a pair of AA 20mm guns (also truck mounted) and a two gun battery of 75mm guns. This meant that blue platoon would have to sit this one out.

Looking over what archival photos I could find two things were evident, that the trucks carrying around those coastal guns were if anything even more impressive in real life and that everything gets pretty dusty when driving around in North Africa! Another archive photo pushed me to model camouflaged sandbagged positions for both 75mm guns. The only downside was the netting i put on them obscured quite a nice paint job done on both guns and their crews.

A month or so later and i found myself at game one, day one! I'd be facing German panzers, attacking across an eastern front theme table. Now we'll have to play guess the mission here as i can't remember which one it was. With the table divided into quarters I deployed opposite him on the other side of the village with my whole force. Half of his force was in reserve to start arriving from turn one from what turn out to be my immediate left flank.

 As it is traditional for me to make a serious mistake in my first game I thought I'd go with this corker, i'd mistakenly thought his reserves would arrive on the table quarter on his side of the table, not on mine! So merrily i sent my coastal gun trucks off to my left with the intention of them being able to take pot shots at his reserves as they arrived to support his defensive line. Nope. Instead my trucks merrily drove into the waiting arms of his reserves who took them down in short order. Opps!
 Oh well, at least my biplanes were doing sterling work chasing off his stukas at every opportunity. I don't think my opponent got in an airstrike all game.
What also went well was my attack on the right which crashed through the village, through his lines, through his nebelwerfer battery and onto the objective by end of my turn three, leaving it uncontested, by not due to go hot until turn six...doh!
 In the centre my tanks and his tanks settled down to a classic early war tank duel which mostly consisted of both sides bailing each other and the resultant race to bail back in. This is really where the higher quality of his forces started to outshine my Italians. However my guys gave him a decent fight for it.

 Pictured right is my back field which was kept secure due to the threat of the cannon platoon firing over open sights. Imporantly this stopped his force from encircling my tanks in the middle of the board. Eventually though his reinforcements started to force my tanks back through the village, I hadn't been able to make the most of my early game numbers advantage and holding an objective that still hadn't gone hot was just no good given that when it finally did matter my opponent was able to drip feed the objective while finishing off my tanks fighting in the centre.

 Eventually my opponent managed to pick off my company commander and shortly afterward forced me to make a company moral check which I automatically failed. Damn. My attack had managed to turn his flank and take his objective long before I needed it, however my mistake on the left had cost me a platoon that would have in retrospect done quite well supporting my right flank attack. A very enjoyable game though against a superb opponent!

Game two vs German infantry, attacking again in pincer, the new version apparently which allows the defender to bring on his reinforcements from only one board edge rather than both. It should have been a straight forward 6-1 for me, however assaulting into woods on the right I managed to bog more tanks than I'd managed in the previous 4 years of Flames of War gaming and didn't quite manage to take his objective before his reinforcements (more Panzer 38Ts) managed to save him. Dang.

Game three, last of a long day. A fair fight battle vs the one and only Nobby of Corrivalry fame. He was fielding half tracked mounted German infantry with 88s, PAK 36s and one of my favorite units of all time, Panzerjager Is!
So attack time again, though fatigue was starting to tell (finishing a challenging payroll at work the week before was taking it toll). I attacked on the right and then thought better of it due to the presence of the 88s.
 I attacked in the middle and essentially lost the fight against panzerjagers that just wouldn't fail their stormtrooper rolls.
The attack on the left when well though, even the coastal artillery trucks managed to get themselves a few kills, however it wasn't enough to push his objective before Nobby managed to assault onto mine.
 Well played Mr Nobby, well played. The only thing that would have really made the game for me would have been discovering that you were in fact the Nobby of Nobby's brewery in Northamptonshire! He isn't, boooo!
I guess on my part it was a case of an M14/40 who chases after two panzerjagers catches neither. I should have concentrated my force into one attack. Oh well, at least it was another fun game!

 Sunday, game four in the snow on a board that made me shiver with the cold. I be facing a mainly artillery based British force across fairly open country with nothing but a village and a rather strategic looking hill in the centre between my and the full fury of the English guns! Well if i'd learnt nothing from yesterday it was to concentrate my attack and time it for when it mattered. I deployed my entire force, all three tank platoons in a line on the left hand side of the board with the rest deployed behind in support. The first few turns I advanced steadily using the hill to shield me from most of his guns and buildings to mask my advance where direct fire would be a danger from his battery facing me on the left. My advance halted once my tanks were in contesting range of the objective and proceeded to shoot it out with the elements of his force in range to protect it. His reinforcements arrived in time to start drip feeding the objective and his recon elements staged a somewhat successful attack down the right flank in an attempt to destroy my back field units. Some astonishing luck saw my unarmoured AA trucks able to take down some of it before succumbing and delayed his attack long enough for my company commander to move across to eliminate the rest with the help of the cannon platoon firing over open sights.

With the destruction of his recon units, an artillery battery and other light armoured units drip feeding the objective I force a company moral test on my opponent which he failed giving me my first win of the tournament! Excellent! Another very enjoyable game with a true gentleman of the hobby with plenty of time for a tea break at half time.

So on-wards to game five, the last of the weekend...

 I'd be playing against another German panzer company with both sides having to put half of their force into reserve. His force including some expensive and deadly looking stuka support so I opted for my AA trucks and two tank platoons. He opted for some 88s, panzer IIIs and a light panzer platoon.

My tanks started a duel with the panzer IIIs and their stuka support. My biplanes managed to chase off one airstrike and the AA trucks managed to take out another however by turn three the quality German tanks was taking it toll with my M14/40s fighting a losing battle. The arrival of his reserves put more pressure on my forces, by the time my reinforcements arrived they were too far away from his objective to draw away his force and too far from my objective to help defend it.

A brave charge by the unknown hero kept me in the game for an extra turn and potentially my biplanes could have kept me in the game by making the panzer IIIs quite the field, however my beloved Falcos missed their target at the key moment, my opponent had taken his objective and won the game.

It had been another great weekend hosted by the Reluctant Conscripts gaming group, so good in fact that me and Al both decided to sign up to their mid-war tournament in July there and then. Despite only winning one game I had a great time and came close to winning more than one of my other games. Al had done slightly better with his British Humber armoured car list and finished ten places above me on the score board, although it must be noted that the score difference between us wasn't as great as I initial thought as looking at the table the middle to bottom players were separated by very few points. Still coming 30th out of 40 is still ok in my book. At least it gives me something to aim for in the mid-war tournament where my Italian Carri might just go on the death ride yet again! "Avanti Savoia!"

In the meantime enjoy a picture of Al's Humber armoured cars.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Sunday Afternoon Dust Up!

It's been a while, but me and Tim finally got in a game of Flames of War this Sunday afternoon, our first game since last summer. Rather than our usual setup outside on the patio, given it was January, we decided to take over the lounge. This involves much delicate maneuvering of fold-out tables, but once set up gives a rather nice gaming area which unlike our summer venue has no danger of play being stopped due to rain!

We like to randomize mission selection so a couple of dice roles later and Tim had apparently selected Dust Up, a fair fight mission. This sees the two sides fighting out over four objectives across diagonally opposite deployment areas. Reinforcements are delayed so aren't rolled for until turn three and half for both forces are kept in reserve. In addition reinforcements come on the the corner of the table directly opposite their side's deployment zones creating an interesting mission where both sides must attack, but also be wary of the enemy reserves attacking their flank.

Tim selected to play as the 82nd Airbourne from Market Garden, fielding two full platoons of paratroopers, a mortar platoon, two Sherman squadrons from the Guards Armoured Division and a unit of Sexton self propelled guns. I couldn't choose what I wanted to field from three different lists so asked my wife to pick a number between one and three. Clare picked three so I would be playing a half track mounted infantry list from the 9th Panzer Division from D-Day.

My list comprised of two platoons of panzergrenadiers in four half tracks each, the CiC in his own half track, the 2ic in a mini platoon with two panzerschreck teams in two half tracks, a full batterie of Nebelwerfers (15cm version), a unit of four panther tanks and a half track mortar platoon.

 I decided to attack from the table quarter containing an orchard and a nice big open field for the nebelwerfer batterie to deploy in. This left Tim to deploy in a rather open area containing two hills.

Axis turn one, I raced blue platoon down the road in their half tracks and moved the artillery spotters in their kubelwagon jeeps off on their way to good vantage points, the nebelwerfers failed to dig in.
 Allied turn one, Tim had deployed his paras along the back edge and decided to move up to cover his objectives.

This ended our first turns without any shots being fired.... Something soon to change!
Axis turn two, I immediately realised that the defensive position I'd put red platoon in was the wrong choice if i was going to commit to an early attack. I think after having been away from Flames of War for a while I had been surprised at the mobility of blue platoon racing along the roads in their half tracks. So apparently had Tim!

I kept blue platoon moving, bring them right in front of Tim's paras who were now out in the open in front of fair number of machine guns. My observers kept their kubelwagons moving and would be in good spotting positions for my next turn. On to the shooting phase and my half tracks opened up on the paras, though only causing the loss of one stand! As Tim put it, the "300 paras" that had opted to hold the pass between the two hills were holding true to their inspiration!

The image to the left show just how close blue platoon's half tracks had managed to get by turn two.
 In the assault phase I opted to dismount from the half tracks using my storm trooper move to maximize possible defensive fire in what I thought would be the inevitable assault by the paras. As they all carried gammon bombs (giving tank assault 3) and no less than two full platoons were bearing down on me I was starting to think I'd probably send blue platoon to their deaths!

Allied turn two, the paras on Tim's right moved up onto the hill and both platoons open up on the panzergrenadiers and their half tracks causing the loss of two stands. I'd got off lucky, without being pinned down and the mere threat of the combined defensive fire of the unit dissuaded Tim from pressing his attack into the assault phase.

 Axis turn three, the half tracks moved to cover the paras moving in from the left over the hill and the panzergrenadiers moved towards the objective contesting it. Now the spotters were in position they called in a smoke bombardment successfully covering the oncoming assault into the objective. Firing from the hip as they moved in, blue platoon managed to cause another casualty on the paras in front of them, pinning them. The half tracks opened up on paras on the hill pinning them.
With as much going in their favour as I could hope for blue platoon charged onto the objective killing off half of the para platoon who stubbornly decided not to counter attack and broke off. Rated as fearless both I and Tim couldn't believe it! I consolidated around the objective to mean that Tim would have to assault next turn to stay in the game.
Allied turn three, Tim successfully got some reinforcements and opted for a Sherman platoon which headed straight across the field in front of them, directly towards one of my observers teams who was not doubt wondering how they'd escape from this one! Instead they opened fire on red platoon who had so far spent the game failing to get out of the orchard, their half tracks bogging down in the rough terrain of the apple trees.
With that side show over, Tim pressed his attack, only one platoon unpinning and able to make the assault. Shooting caused no losses but pinned down their target. Charging in defensive fire caused the loss of one stand of paras. In the assault the paras managed to take down all but two stands of blue platoon, who successfully rallied to counter attack and took down more stands of paras in close combat. The game was literally at a knife edge. Could Tim wipe out blue platoon and counter attack across the field taking victory from the jaws of defeat? Well no, because despite being fearless the paras failed to counter attack and broke off leaving the few survivors of blue platoon to consolidate on the objective now uncontested.
Axis turn four, with the objective held and uncontested my gamble with blue platoon had paid off, the game ending in an Axis victory! A good game, played out fairly quickly and really only fought out by two platoons. I have a feeling mine and Tim's next game will be more closely fought now we're getting back into it again. Next game I think I'll try and salvage the honour of the 82nd airborne!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Project Panzer Lehr Part Four: Tournament Day Two

Day two, another fairly early morning drive up to the tournament venue from Rugby talking gaming and generally shooting the breeze with Al. Oh and lets not forget impromptu karaoke when certain songs came up through the iPod!

Getting into the venue and after grabbing a cup of tea I found out that'd I'd drawn another game against an elite Allied infantry force, this time British Paras. We'd be fighting for Saint-Lo, a historically vital strategic point so no pressure then!

I figured that on an entirely urban small table, more infantry would be better than less, so I went yet again with my defensive list. The mission was Domination, with objectives spread around the board, two each inside our deployment zones worth two points each and one in the centre worth four. First to eight points wins the game. So two tactics then really. One to hold the enemy off the centre objective and sweep round to take those in the enemy deployment zone. Or two, hit the centre hard,

push the enemy off and win through a direct assault. I've never been what Al refers to as the most "subtle" of gamers so naturally I opted for plan B. So did my opponent, it resulted in a blood bath.

Turn one saw both sides positioning for their respective advances towards the centre. Assault troops massing and screening forces moving up opposite flanks to block enemy reserves who would be arriving on the opposite sides to our deployment zones.

Turn two saw the first assault, with red platoon, the 2ic and Oic charging into the objective building in the centre of the town. The Paras put up some stiff resistance, but the size of my full Lehr platoon managed wipe them out to a man. My guys consolidated their position ready to receive the evitable counter attack.

The image left shows yellow platoon deploying in buildings on the T-junction opposite from the objective to cover my assault.
The image to the right shows his flank screening force. I kept my force close enough to threaten an attack on the flank objectives to keep these units from moving to properly support his assaults on the centre.

Turn three, assaults by another of his platoons who assaulted and all but broke red platoon. However the 2ic and Oic kept their men firm and held on beating back the Paras.
Mortar rounds from the Paras pounded he objective and destroyed the Oic's halftrack, left burning on a cross roads in the centre of town.

Turn four, another attack by the Paras on the tattered remains of red platoon. As you can see below they were in a bad way. Only one stand and the attached 2ic and Oic were left!

The Paras charged across the road towards the objective.

The Paras managed to kill a stand, but after several rounds of combat, my 2ic and Oic stubbornly held on and caused the Paras to fall back.

So far I'd passed every motivation test I had had to make and my opponent had failed each and every one of his! - To his credit he was amazingly good humoured about it!
I felt I was close to winning, but the battle was far from over. The next few turns involved both sides exchanging fire while reserves moved to attack and counter attack. Three stands of Paras were close enough to the objective to keep them in the game, however I couldn't risk moving the 2ic or Oic out to try to push them off. They were also tucked away out of sight of my covering force, so I couldn't bring my guns to bear on them.
Eventually however I decided to pull the trigger and raced the covering force across the street into the objective building, their half tracks racing down the road to fire upon the remaining Paras contesting the objective.

I ended up launching another assault to finally wipe them out. Taking the objective. However on the right armoured cars had arrived and moved past blue platoon who had moved up a bit too far on the right, allowing them to deploy behind them.
This allowed him to take one of my backfield objectives. So the score was 6 all. I had also wasted my Panthers coming on from reserve assaulting his flank force so was unable to counter them. We had however managed to play to time, so called it a hard fought draw! We had an absolute blast of a game, my opponent was brilliant fun to play against joking and chatting the whole time and a brilliant sport.I was a bit disappointed with missing out on the win, but two losses and two draws was definitely an upward trend going into the final game.

Final game of the weekend, I'd managed to keep the Allies from taking Saint Lo, so German high command decided to give me the vital town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise to defend, complete with US paratrooper suspended from the bell tower by his parachute!

Of course I'd be defending again with my defensive list as yet again I'd be up against Allied infantry. British Paratroopers again with some Sherman armoured support and Naval gunfire.

I can't remember what the mission was now, but I had two objectives to defend, one on a hill outside of town and another in the town itself near the church.

I would be starting with my entire force deployed, a bit of novelty. However the enemy could potentially come on from either side of the board, so deployed my force in a defensive formation in the town able to comfortably deal with an attack from either or both directions.

The British Paras opted for a night attack, fairly sensible as they had a large area of open ground to cross to get to either objective.

Turn one, most of his force committed to one point of attack towards the objective on the hill outside of town. Brave stuff, his assault would have to go off as soon as he could as the cover of night could lift from my turn three onwards. Spreadhead deployment would help that though!
He got an assault off on turn one. Luckily I'd deployed well enough, so was set to receive the assault and pushed them back. In my turn one I opted to counter attack and red platoon charged out of the foxholes as the attacking Brits. It was a brutal assault, but eventually I managed to break the back of his assault force. With enough of red platoon left to consolidate back towards the objective ready to set up defences again for the next wave.

Pictured right you can see my forces on the opposite side to the hill objective redeploying in reaction to the enemies movements.

After his initial assault had failed, turn two and three saw the Paras digging in around the farmhouse as my opponent organised for another attack on the hill objective.
My turn three saw dawn break and the cover of night lift leaving the British Paras even more exposed and my 88s and Panthers open up at long range.

Turn four saw another assault, which pushed red platoon off the objective just as yellow platoon moved up to reinforce them. The Oic and the small 2ic platoon, both mounted in their halftracks kept me in the game and swept the open ground with their machine guns keeping the Brits pinned.

Turn five and turn six saw the Paras hanging on and my Panzer Lehr brought their firepower to bear, trying to eliminate the small isolated group of Paras that were contesting the hill objective.

Eventually my fire began to find it's mark and after a last ditched charge from the Paras to try to finally take the Hill objective I managed to force a company moral check which despite being rated as fearless, my opponent failed. I'd finally won a game!

Above is the campaign map at the end of day two. Only small isolated pockets of Germans were left, but we had finally got our act together and begun to take the fight to the Allies a bit more than on day one!

It had been yet another excellent tournament from the Reluctant Conscripts ( and a great weekend's gaming! I'll definitely be back for one of their future events and I can't recommend giving one a go, especially if you have not played in a tournament before as their a great bunch of guys and more than willing to help out newer players. On top of all of this the event was raising money for the Royal British Legion. A worthy gaming based commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.